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Geriatrics honors people who display optimal aging

by Jill Scoggins, HSC communications and marketing last modified Oct 02, 2013 01:35 PM

The Geriatrics division of the University of Louisville’s Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine honored four Louisvillians age 85 and older for leading lives that are active, engaged and involved.

Optimal Aging Award Winners were Lucille Leggett and Tom Moffett in the individual category and Elmo and Martha Martin in the couple category.

More than 50 nominations were submitted.

“The award is presented for optimal aging across the full spectrum of life throughout civic, social, spiritual and creative levels,” said Christian Davis Furman, vice chair for geriatrics. “We honor those who are role models for maintaining active engagement with life well into their senior years.”

About the winners

Lucille Leggett, 94, was nominated by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer who called her a “model citizen (who) exemplifies the meaning of fulfilling one’s civic duty as an avid grassroots contributor.” A retired teacher from Jefferson County Public Schools, Leggett served 10 years as the Russell Block Watch Captain for Division 1 of the Louisville Metro Police Department, volunteered for 15 different mayoral campaigns and helped a number of other officials get elected in Louisville over a 60-year period. She works with Operation Brightside to fight blight in Louisville and is an active member of the American Garden Association. She was honored in the 1990s with the National Peace Pole for her work with the Russell Community Garden, the first community garden planted in West Louisville.

Leggett, said Fischer, “is still kicking her heels up” as the oldest dance team member of the Oak and Acorn Dance Team, and recently “boogied with her fellow teammates at the Universal Circus” when it visited Louisville. A Louisville Courier-Journal video shows her getting her groove on with some much younger dance partners during an Operation Brightside event in 2011. Leggett continues to mentor youth, has served as an active member of the NAACP and most recently played an active role in reopening the Parkland Boys and Girls Club.

Leggett once said, “There are a lot of neighborhoods in Louisville, and they have lots of folks in them. When they all come together, with churches and businesses and everybody helping out, they join with the mayor and the Metro Council to make this city work. It’s like putting a puzzle together or a patchwork quilt: If one piece is missing, it’s not complete. That’s what being a neighbor is: making (your) neighborhood, and the city, complete.”

Tom Moffett, 89, was nominated independently by two Christian Care Communities staff members, Constance Merritt and Soni Castleberry. A resident of CCC’s Chapel House, Moffett has a long history of civic engagement and activism. His nominators noted his belief that “injustice to one is injustice to all.” He has not been afraid to speak out on issues such as racism, police brutality, health care, equal rights, peace over war and the needs of youth and children. He was active with Louisville’s Fair Housing Movement and has participated with the Kentucky Alliance to Abolish Racism and Political Oppression, the Fairness Campaign and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Merritt wrote in her nomination, “Interviewing (Moffett) for a graduate school project this past winter was a richly rewarding experience for me. Mr. Moffett has such wisdom and depth of insight.”

Born to Presbyterian missionaries in Korea, Moffett became a Presbyterian minister himself, and an early calling to West Virginia coal country, he said, opened his eyes to racial inequality and economic oppression, causes that became his life’s avocation. He eventually left the ministry and became an accountant but today worships with a predominantly African-American congregation at Grace Hope Presbyterian Church in Louisville’s Smoketown neighborhood. Merritt also is known to reach out to others across all social strata, and also has developed a Facebook following with more than 200 friends.

As Castleberry wrote in her nomination, “Divorce, the death of an adult child and other disappointments in life have not broken (Tom’s) spirit. He has faced hardship and gone on. For myself, and those of us who are fortunate to know Tom, … we are blessed with the model he presents as to how to truly live life at any age to the fullest.”

Elmo and Martha Martin, both 85, can be seen at virtually all UofL football and men’s and women’s basketball games, and they drive another couple to the games who otherwise would not be able to attend. Elmo Martin is a retired administrator and Martha Martin is a retired teacher with JCPS schools, and both continue to volunteer with children—he at Middletown Elementary School where he quizzes children on math problems and rewards correct answers with candy; and she at Ronald McDonald House, helping families with children who are patients at Kosair Children’s Hospital. The couple also helps to preserve the traditions of square dancing, an activity they enjoy participating in every Friday night.

The couple’s son, Anthony Martin, a physician who is affiliated with UofL, nominated his parents for the award. In the nomination, the he referenced his father’s 35 years of service in the Army Reserve, from which he retired as a colonel, and his current volunteerism with the Reserve Officers Association and the Association of the Century, supporting the 100th Division, a Kentucky-based unit. His mother volunteers with Meals on Wheels and organizes bingo games on Monday nights at a local nursing home/assisted living center. Both lifelong Baptists, the Martins faithfully attend church, where he teaches Sunday School year round and she teaches Bible school in the summer.

“She is the glue that holds the family together,” wrote the younger Martin about his mother. “She organizes the holiday events often doing the cooking for up to 20 family members. He is a lifelong contributor to his country through military service and local service through his work with JCPS schools. (They) are true partners in life and are role models of health and maintaining vitality and activity. Elmo and Martha Martin are a team, and both are models of optimal aging … for the family and the community.”

Event sponsors are Episcopal Church Home, Hosparus, JenCare, Louisville Magazine, Masonic Homes of Kentucky, MD2U, Today’s Transitions and Schmitt’s Florist.

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